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Don’t bother playing ‘South Park’ unless you’re a die-hard fan

“South Park used to be a lot funnier,” I catch myself thinking as I play through the franchise’s latest game, The Fractured But Whole (TFBW). Maybe I’m just too old, or has the world moved on while South Park stayed the same? Humor is crucial to the success of the game, which relies on superficial mechanics and an overload of fetch quests and collectibles to pad its length; It’s TFBW’s jokey tone and writing that hold the game together. But if you aren’t already a fan of the show, there’s little reason to play the game.

TFBW is a direct sequel to 2014’s The Stick of Truth (TSOT) and inherited a lot of its structure and style (along with South Park’s signature color-paper look). You’re still romping around the title town, which is laid out roughly the same. Old exploration-impeding obstacles have been swapped out for new ones. Instead of old-school turn-based RPG combat suiting the first game’s faux-fantasy theme, the sequel swaps magic out for heroic powers and fans the action out on a grid-like XCOM-lite, which fits its superhero setting. You collect a lot of tchotchkes and don’t really know why.

But central to the game’s quality is whether the jokes land. I haven’t regularly watched South Park in a decade and its style of humor seems unchanged. As Kotaku points out, the show’s style paints almost everything as equally absurd, which was fine when edgy critics pointedly criticized everyone from the sidelines. But mocking folks for taking issues seriously isn’t that fashionable anymore — more comedy today embraces diverse outlooks. Critics acknowledge that they’ve got a horse in the race.

Which isn’t to say the writing is completely tone-deaf. There are plenty of jokes that land, like the young Tweek’s dad mending his son’s relationship with another boy because “having a gay son is great for the coffee business.” Eviscerating petty and selfish human motives is the best kind of South Park joke, but it’s hit or miss in the game. It’s tonally uneven for The Fractured But Whole to thoughtfully integrate a gender-identity/redefinition subplot only for the player to beat up black dads on behalf of the bigoted police chief without any consequences or self-awareness. White cops pinning crimes on innocent people because they’re black was an edgy punchline in the show’s distant past (from the first Michael Jackson episode, IIRC), but it sticks out as dated comedy here.

That lack of awareness applies to the South Park franchise itself. The Stick of Truth gleefully poked fun at the stuffy fantasy genre and blended it with the arbitrariness of childhood make-believe, ribbing the equally illogical concepts of turn-based combat and magic. But South Park’s best moments address how its young cast sees the world differently than adults, like a perverse take on Calvin and Hobbes’ dichotomy. In the episode that inspired TSOT’s fantasy setting, the Lord of the Rings-obsessed kids perceive a film as evil for perverting their friends and undertake a quest to return it to the video store — but the adults and others, realizing the youngsters are taking back a porn film, hound the faux-fellowship. It’s brilliant writing that fits the show, mockery with appreciation. Both it and (to a lesser extent) TSOT have a sublime time exploring childhood imagination juxtaposed with adult truths.

The Fractured But Whole is a similar media satire that critiques the consumerist mess of modern superhero films, but it leans hard on fewer jokes. The Stick of Truth made fun of its source material from a place of love and understood its target, but TFBW doesn’t much care about the niche it’s criticizing and guns for low-hanging fruit. Seriously, count how many times the multiphase, TV-Netflix-feature film-crossover joke is made — a gag that was stale to begin with. That’s because superhero media isn’t a robust industry — it’s a gold rush on wobbly legs, which became a surprise juggernaut a little under a decade since the first Iron Man film rang in the era of connected universes. Film critic A.O. Scott was premature to suggest in the same year that audiences would soon tire of superhero films and they’d go the way of the Western, but TFBW portrays superhero media as a monolith bamboozling the public into consuming crappy, derivative stories, ergo worth taking down a peg.

That’s a misunderstanding of why fans enjoy superheroes. We’ve always known comic books were stupid, and it’s obvious to anyone that big studios are leaping to adapt popular graphical characters to make a buck. All superhero films and TV series inevitably compromise the stories and characters that appear in print in order to cram them into the silver screen. TFBW mocks facades and tropes, not the paradoxically honest reasons we keep coming back to thin, outlandish superhero stories. That’s where South Park feels like it’s lost its clever edge as it keeps making the same jokes over and over.

If you want a carnival tour of the South Park universe with some light tactical gameplay and a few laughs, The Fractured But Whole is a fine game. Just don’t expect it to move the needle or stretch beyond the same punching bags the show has been hammering for the last decade.


Singapore bans additional cars to keep traffic from getting worse

Starting next February, residents of of Singapore won’t be able to drive additional cars in the small city-state. It’s introducing the ban as a line in the sand to keep the island from being overrun with vehicles and clogging traffic, especially as it’s spending billions of dollars on public transit projects.

The move is the latest by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, which had already limited the rate of new cars and motorcycles at 0.25 percent. Not to mention all the import taxes and registration fees making vehicles, on average, four times more expensive to own in the island nation. Given that Singapore has about a sixth of the area of the US’ smallest state, Rhode Island — and that a stunning 12 percent of its space is taken up by roads — preserving it is essential.

This isn’t an eternal ban, as authorities will review it in 2020. But for the next few years, the about 600,000 total private and rental vehicles will have to serve the 5.6 million people living in Singapore — though drivers can still file to replace their old vehicles for new ones. This doesn’t apply to goods vehicles and buses, which will retain a 0.25 percent growth rate — and that could be good news for any more autonomous trucking experiments.

Source: Autoblog


Snapchat reportedly has ‘hundreds of thousands’ of unsold Spectacles

Sure, they were a hot commodity when they first dropped, but almost a year later and Snapchat has “hundreds of thousands” of pairs of Spectacles sitting in Chinese warehouses. The news, via The Information, comes after CEO Evan Spiegel boasted that sales of the video-recording sunglasses had topped 150,000. Apparently execs were so enthused by how popular Spectacles were in their limited run, that the company ordered more and is left holding the bag now that demand has waned.

More than that, the move to buy drone-maker Zero Zero has fallen through according to the publication’s sources. The reason? Its $200 million asking price. There’s a chance, however, that the unsold inventory might not hurt the company. Unassembled parts could be upgraded or repurposed for new models, for instance. Maybe for now don’t expect any crazy new hardware from the ephemeral social network, though.

Source: The Information


Susan Fowler’s Uber harassment story is being made into a movie

Earlier this year, Susan Fowler wrote a blog post describing her sexual harassment at Uber and revealed disturbing details about the company’s sexist environment. That post would lead to an independent investigation of Uber’s practices, the firing of over 20 employees and, eventually, to former CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation. For many women in Silicon Valley, Fowler’s blog post was the shot heard around the world; a catalyst for change in a toxic culture. And now, Fowler’s story will be a movie.

That tidbit was first revealed in a New York Times profile on Fowler this past weekend, but Deadline Hollywood has more details on the film. The production company that landed the story is called Good Universe, and Fowler is said to be involved in the making of the movie. The movie’s screenwriter is said to be Allison Schroeder, who’s also responsible for writing the script for Hidden Figures. Producer Kristin Burr told Deadline that the movie is described as something like Erin Brockovich meets The Social Network.

In her story, Fowler wrote about how she was approached by a manager about an open relationship with his girlfriend, and how he was really looking for women to have sex with. She then took this highly inappropriate encounter to HR, but was then told that nothing would be done because he was a “high performer.” It turns out he was also propositioning other co-workers. She also wrote about how female employees were repeatedly undervalued.

The movie deal was signed amidst a current climate where Hollywood is also taking a hard look at its own sexism. Executive Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and rape, as well as Amazon’s former VP of film and TV Roy Price. Both have now lost their jobs. There continues to be stories of allegations of abuse and harassment across all industries, as highlighted by the #MeToo hashtag.

Via: Variety

Source: New York Times, Deadline


‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ comes to PC and consoles January 26th

If you’ve been anticipating the upcoming Bandai Namco anime-based game Dragon Ball FighterZ like we have, you’re in luck. The gaming company just announced that the title will release on January 26th, 2018 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

GET READY FighterZ! On Jan. 26th, DRAGON BALL FighterZ will be unleashed on your X1, PS4, & PC. Pre-Order your copy:

— Bandai Namco US (@BandaiNamcoUS) October 23, 2017

Last E3, the game’s producer, Tomoko Hiroki, told Engadget that the team was focused on making the 2D fighter feel and look just like the anime it’s named after by using 3D rendering to play in 2D. That way, they were able to include changes of camera angle and add cinematic effects to the high-powered attack animations, which recall the show’s own art style. In addition, the creators made the animation of fast fighting moments a little rougher to emulate the double-framing techniques of the actual anime shows. The result will hopefully be a fun fighting game set in an authentic Dragon Ball Z universe.

Via: Shonen Jump

Source: Bandai Namco


Robot detective game ‘Subsurface Circular’ is out on iPad

We’ve been excited about Mike Bithell’s surprise indie game, Subsurface Circular, since it released months ago. The developer of Thomas Was Alone and Volume stealthily made the science fiction text adventure game for iOS after he asked Twitter followers in April if they’d buy a unique hour-long video game for $5. Now the game is out and available on the App Store for iPad.

This is the first of a planned series of “Bithell Shorts” that will challenge the idea that all games need to be massive and long-lasting. Subsurface Circular plays like an interactive novel inspired by classic adventure games and more modern dialogue systems like the ones in Mass Effect. You’ll play as a detective investigating a series of robot disappearances by collecting words and phrases to use in various dialogue-based puzzles to make your way through the short game.

“Traditional media are great at telling short stories, but in games we tend to want to hand the player epics,” Bithell said in a statement. “We set out to create a game that delivers a satisfying experience in one sitting, and the response from players has been incredible.”

Source: iTunes App Store


iPhone Upgrade Program Pre-Approvals Now Available Ahead of iPhone X Launch

Apple customers who participate in Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program and are planning to buy an iPhone X can now use the Apple Store app to get pre-approved for a purchase ahead of iPhone X pre-orders. Pre-approvals will be available for a limited amount of time.

To initiate the pre-approval process, customers will need to download the Apple Store app and choose their preferred iPhone X model to get their loans approved before pre-orders go live this Friday. The process is designed to make it easier for customers to get through the checkout process when pre-orders kick off.

Image via David Martin
When pre-approval has been obtained, iPhone Upgrade Program customers can use the Apple Store app to complete an iPhone X purchase once pre-orders are live. According to the Apple Store app, pre-orders will begin at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, October 27.

Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program is designed to allow customers to upgrade to a new iPhone after at least 12 payments have been made towards an existing iPhone. The Upgrade Program, which includes AppleCare+, requires customers to trade-in their current phones to get a new phone.

iPhone Upgrade Program members are able to use a Trade-in Kit this year to return their existing devices to Apple, alleviating the need to visit an Apple Store to purchase a new device.

iPhone Upgrade Pricing on the iPhone X costs $49.91 per month for the 64GB model and $56.16 per month for the 256GB model.

Upgrading to a new device through the iPhone Upgrade Program last year was a hassle because customers were required to reserve a device at a local retail store and supply was limited, but this year, iPhone Upgrade Program customers will go through the same order process as other customers. Though the wording makes it sound like iPhone Upgrade Program customers will be able to pre-order more quickly than others, that’s not the case. This process offers pre-approval for the credit check portion of the iPhone Upgrade Program and does not otherwise speed up pre-ordering.

A fast and easy upgrade process will be essential this year, as rumors have suggested the iPhone X will be in seriously short supply. Available iPhone X stock is likely to sell out quickly, perhaps within minutes of when pre-orders go live. There may be a long wait for an iPhone X throughout the rest of 2017, with supply picking up during the first few months of 2018.

Following pre-orders on October 27, the first iPhone X devices will ship out to customers on November 3.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
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Sprint Announces $350 Discount for iPhone X on Sprint Flex With Trade-in

Earlier in the month, Sprint launched an iPhone 8 discount program that brought the total price of the smartphone down by $350 through discounting the cost of monthly leases. Today the carrier has revealed a similar promotion will be coming to Apple’s iPhone X, just a few days before pre-orders for the device begin on October 27.

Like the iPhone 8 deal, there are a few stipulations to come with Sprint’s discount. First, to get the 64GB iPhone X at $22.22/month (down from $41.67/month) you’ll have to sign up for the Sprint Flex leasing program, and you’ll need to trade in an eligible smartphone. The Apple devices currently eligible range from the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to this year’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus; various Android smartphones are also accepted. Both existing and new Sprint customers will be able to take advantage of the deal.

Under Sprint’s deal, you’ll be paying about $400 for the 64GB iPhone X over the course of the 18-month lease. Afterwards you can trade in the device to Sprint for a new lease and continue the program (which you can do after 12 monthly payments with iPhone Forever), or choose to keep the iPhone X. If you do, Sprint’s $22.22/month discount will no longer be applied for the remaining monthly payments and the price will again rise to $41.67/month. With the 18-month discount and 6-month regular price, the 64GB iPhone X would come out to about $650 total, down from $999.

Additionally, Sprint announced that it will offer a “best price guarantee” for the iPhone X, so if you see a nationally advertised lower price within 14 days of your Sprint lease activation or preorder, you can receive the difference via a Visa Prepaid Card.

Verizon also announced its own iPhone X promotion today, but it appears the carrier is simply offering up to $300 off the device in regards to eligible smartphone trade-ins. Verizon hasn’t yet delved into what this could be on a monthly lease basis for the iPhone X, but the company did say that the $300 trade-in/promo credit will be applied over 24 months, and ends when the balance is paid or the line is terminated/changed to another plan.

If you’re looking to trade in your current smartphone ahead of the iPhone X’s launch, Gazelle is gearing up to debut a promotion where you can get 10 percent more cash back on any smartphone traded in between October 24 and November 7. Gazelle offered some pricing examples of how the promotion will affect the trade-in values of a few iPhone models:

  • iPhone 7 256GB – up to $335 + 10% promo = $368.50
  • iPhone 7 Plus 256GB – up to $360 + 10% promo = $396.00
  • iPhone 6s Plus: 128GB – up to $215 +10% promo = $236.50

For more of the latest deals heading into the launch of the iPhone X, be sure to head over to our Deals Roundup.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors.

Related Roundup: Apple DealsTags: Sprint, Gazelle
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Beautiful, Modern, and Fast Reddit Client ‘Apollo’ Launches for iPhone and iPad After Years of Development

Christian Selig, a former Apple intern, has released a beautiful, modern, and fast Reddit client for iOS called Apollo after years of development.

Apollo was created specifically with Apple’s official iOS design guidelines in mind, with input from thousands of Reddit users for over two years. The app is very customizable in the Settings tab, where you can select compact or large post sizes, a light or dark theme, modify gestures, and much more.

The dark mode can be enabled manually, scheduled at specific times, or set to activate automatically based on your device’s brightness level.

By default, the current gestures include a short swipe from the right side to reply to a post, a long swipe from the right side to save a post, a short swipe from the left side to upvote a post, and a long swipe from the left side to downvote a post. These gestures can be changed to other actions like Hide, Author, and Share.

One of Apollo’s key features is the Jump Bar, which allows for very quick switching between subreddits. When browsing a subreddit, simply tap its name in the top navigation bar to search for and go to another subreddit. A favorites window also appears with a list of any subreddits you have starred.

Apollo also includes an impressive media viewer for viewing, sharing, saving, or copying images, GIFs, videos, albums, and more from a variety of sources. A premium GIF scrubbing feature enables users to slide their fingers across a GIF in the media viewer to go backward or forward in the animation.

Apollo includes support for 3D Touch on iPhone 6s and later, Touch ID, and Face ID on iPhone X. The client also supports iPad natively.

Other features include a built-in Markdown composer for writing comments and posts, full in-line Imgur uploading for both images and albums, multiple account support, subreddit grouping, Safari View Controller for browsing articles and links, content filtering and blocking, direct messaging, search, and more.

In an announcement post on Reddit, Selig said he wanted to create a Reddit client that truly felt like an iOS app—not a hybrid, cross-platform one.

I really think an iOS app should look and feel like an iOS app, and an Android app should respect Material Design. I think designing for the middle results in a clunky experience where the potential of both platforms is never realized to the fullest. Apollo is an iOS app period, built to take advantage of iOS features and feel like a beautiful, familiar iOS app. I also think they discontinued Alien Blue without incorporating the best parts of it that people loved the most, such as the minimal, uncluttered UI (Alien Blue was much more compact and concise), as well as powerful features like swipe to collapse comments, full screen, inline previews for links in comments, etc. Apollo has all that and more, because I think it’s essential part of browsing on iOS.

The developer also sees it as a suitable replacement for Alien Blue, which Reddit abandoned to focus on its official iOS app early last year.

Apollo is rolling out on the App Store [Direct Link] today as a free download without ads, with an optional $2.99 in-app purchase available to unlock features such as submitting posts, multiple accounts, a customizable app icon and gestures, Touch ID or Face ID authentication, and GIF scrubbing.

Tag: Reddit
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New York City Plans to Replace Transit MetroCard With Electronic Card Readers That Support Apple Pay

New York City is planning to replace its existing MetroCard transit payment system with electronic card readers that will allow New Yorkers to pay their subway and bus fares using Apple Pay, reports The New York Times.

A committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this morning approved a $573 million contract for a payment system that mirrors the one in use for the London Underground and commuter railroads in London.

Image via The New York Times
Starting in late 2018, NFC-based electronic readers will be installed in 500 subway turnstiles and 600 buses, with rollout expanding to all subway stations and buses by late 2020. Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay will work with the new system, as will contactless credit and debit cards that have an embedded NFC chip.

While the new system will replace the MetroCard, New York City will not phase out MetroCards entirely until 2023. Until then, the two systems will co-exist.

Related Roundup: Apple PayTags: transit, New York City
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